fbenario wrote:Nonho, how do we date Roman History, and put all the ruins in some kind of understandable context?
I don't think carbon-dating had ever much relevance in archeology. It only served a purpose to identify much larger spans of time, since it get less and less reliable the more one wants to squeeze precise dating out of it. And archeology, that studies things that are closer to us in time, certainly requires much more precision than, say, the age of fossils.
Dates of Roman times have been produced by different methods... I imagine that when something is excavated, the sheer layering in the soil is evidence that can be used for dating. Buildings in particular are not to be discovered in the void, but always next to other buildings and structures that preceded them or followed them. Such methods, of comparison of different sources and observation of multiple hints given by the context is certainly the more reliable one: it never says the last word, it can always be changed if new things are discovered, and it is the fruit of a collective research
that it is certainly much more reliable and interesting than "scientific" results produced by a single lab that holds the key to DNA or Carbon dating evidence or whatever.
For sure I cannot comment on the scientific accuracy of the carbon dating principle per se. It is possible that it is sound in itself: but it is undeniable that carbon dating results can be polluted and tampered with in so many ways
Just as an example: there is an extraordinary paleolithic cave discovered in 1994, the "Chauvet cave
" in the Ardennes, that contains paintings supposedly dated 30,000 years BP (before present), a dating that surprised everyone considering that caves like Altamira and Lascaux are normally dated around 10,000 BP.
Chauvet has been declared authentic
. The "authenticity" was established observing the lines drawn on the walls of the cave, that apparently contain a number of tiny holes due to erosion that new lines would not have, and also "observing the style of the paintings and the use of colors".
I have a book about everything that concerns this cave and, personally, in all my ignorance I am not convinced. My impression is that Chauvet is a forgery
, and a blatant one at that. The drawings in it are too good, in a way, and at the same time disappointingly "modern". Here are a couple of examples (from a google search
As you see there is something that eerily reminds one of Walt Disney, more than reminding us of our heroic cro-magnon ancestors.
But what about dating? Samples of the charcoal from the black lines were analyzed, producing the following results: 32,410 +/- 720 BP and 30,790 +/- 600 BP. Other elements were analyzed from torch marks that produced results of 4 thousands of years later, and samples from the floor results even 6 thousand years after the paintings.
The professors came to the conclusion that this cathedral had been frequented by humans for thousands of years before being abandoned and forgotten (and yet for those thousands of years while the cave was being frequented, the painting were never renovated or drawn on, but also never faded away despite people going about and lighting fires next to them).
Off the top of my head, all it took to the forgers of the Chauvet cave to accomplish their deed was perhaps to use pieces of coal that were themselves 30,000 years old; and as to the erosion marks, there might be mechanical or chemical ways to produce them. Yet these considerations don't stop the professors from completely relying on carbon dating, and thus declaring to the world how Chauvet contains "the world's oldest paintings".
While it should be obvious to anyone that fakery and forgery in the arts have in fact been used for a long time, and are more common that one would think.
It is enough to consider a character like Eric Hebborn
, who probably was the most extraordinary forger of old paintings that ever lived (and who it is said produced many of the drawings and some of the paintings we today admire in public galleries).
On January 8, 1996, shortly after the publication of the Italian edition of his book The Art Forger's Handbook
, Eric Hebborn was found lying in a street in Rome, his skull crushed with a blunt instrument. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Hebborn
Hebborn described profusely the innumerable ways to counterfeit products of art to make them look authentic and fool any critic or professor thrown at them. But this does not stop books of art history from being written, does it?
* Actually one day I'll might try to write a thread about fakery in arts, because it truly is a Pandora's box. It is my contention that the current trend of forced restoration of old paintings (that it is actually producing versions of such paintings that are incredibly inferior and forever diminished) is in fact a scheme to subtract paintings away from the public, to stash them in the hands of the elite somewhere. But of course, nobody can say peep on this, because the restorations are "scientific".